WHL leads Team Canada into WJC

By Aaron Vickers






14 members of the CHL’s Western Hockey League have been selected to<br />represent Team Canada at the 2005 World Junior Championshi

Fourteen members of the CHL’s Western
Hockey League have been selected to represent Team Canada at the 2005 World
Junior Championships, held in Grand Forks, North Dakota over the Christmas
holidays.

 

Among the list of Western Leaguers includes seven
returning players, the highest number of returnees in the history of the
league.

 

Defenseman Dion Phaneuf of the Red Deer Rebels
returns after participating in the tournament last season. Widely regarded as
the top defenseman in the WHL, and the top defensive prospect anywhere, the
Calgary Flames draftee has registered 11 goals and 21 points in 22 games this
season under head coach Brent Sutter, who is also the bench boss for Team
Canada.

 

Phaneuf, who was remembered most for a dominating
open-ice hit on Czech prospect Rostislav Olesz last year, will be joined by Shawn
Belle
of the Tri-City Americans. Belle, regarded as one of the best skaters
in the league, leads his Americans team in both assists (17) and points (25) in
31 games. He is property of the Dallas
Stars.

 

Braydon Coburn of the
Portland Winter Hawks, and Brent Seabrook of the Lethbridge Hurricanes,
round out the returning defensemen from the Western Hockey League. Coburn,
Atlanta’s first round selection in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, leads the Winter
Hawks defense in all major offensive categories, with 21 points in 30 games
this season.

 

Seabrook, a native of Delta, BC, has been an anchor
for a much-improved Lethbridge Hurricanes squad. Captain of the team, the
Chicago prospect has 26 points in 34 games. On an offensive tear, seven of
those points including four goals, have come in Seabrook’s last five games.

 

Seabrook, however, is questionable for the tournament
after taking a hit from London Knights forward Corey Perry in an
intra-squad game earlier this week. Believed to be an upper-body injury, the
thought is that Seabrook will be able to play by December 25th, when
Team Canada opens the tournament against Slovakia.

 

Joining the four returning defensemen is 2004
Memorial Cup winner and Nashville Predators prospect Shea Weber. Weber,
who has recorded 25 points in 32 games for the Kelowna Rockets, is expected to
play with Phaneuf, forming a formidable first pairing.


Rounding out the Western Hockey League’s defensemen is the third overall
selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Medicine Hat Tigers defenseman Cam
Barker
. The Blackhawks pick is the lone 1986-born player on this Team
Canada squad, the oldest in club history at 19 years, five months, and 28 days.
Barker, youngest to only QMJHL skater Sidney Crosby, currently leads the
WHL in scoring among defensemen, with 33 points in 31 games.

 

Joining Barker up front is Tigers teammate and
Buffalo Sabres prospect Clarke MacArthur. MacArthur, 6’0, 185lbs, is one
of three forwards from the Western Hockey League who have not represented
Canada at the U-20 tournament. MacArthur is a part of the 2004 WHL Champion
Medicine Hat squad, and currently sits sixth in league scoring with 41 points
in 30 games played.

 

A teammate of Dion Phaneuf’s in Red Deer, Rebels captain
Colin Fraser will also be playing in his first World Junior
Championships. Thought by many to be a long shot to make the club, the
Blackhawks prospect obviously showed enough to Brent Sutter to be worthy of a
position on Team Canada. Who knows the Surray, BC native better then Sutter,
who has watched him amass 28 points this season.

 

Calgary Hitmen forward Andrew Ladd will be
making his international debut when he suits up for Team Canada in the World
Junior Championships. Ladd, the fourth overall selection in the 2004 NHL Entry
Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes, has scored 11 goals and 24 points in 33 games
for Calgary this season. Although the tournament will be a new experience for
Ladd, he’ll have the help of Hitmen teammate and Anaheim Mighty Ducks prospect Ryan
Getzlaf.

 

The 6’3, 207lb Getzlaf, is one of three returning
forwards to Team Canada from the WHL and currently sits 13th in
league scoring with 19 goals and 35 points in 33 games this season. The Regina,
Saskatchewan native also sits among the top ten in the league in goals scored,
as well as plus/minus (+19).

 

Prince Albert Raiders team captain Jeremy Colliton
is the final forward who is returning to the club. Colliton, who leads his club
in goals (14), assists (22) and points (36), currently sits 12th in
league scoring, and among the top 10 in helpers. The 6’2, 190lb native of
Blackie, Alberta was selected in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the New York
Islanders.

 

New York Rangers prospect Nigel Dawes returns
to Team Canada after leading the club in scoring in 2004. Dawes, who plays in
Kootenay, currently leads the Ice in goals and points. The 5’8, 180lb forward
is the smallest on the roster, but can be counted on for another huge
performance in this year’s tournament.

 

Rounding out the Western Hockey League’s contribution
to Team Canada is a pair of goaltenders. Both Jeff Glass and Rejean
Beauchemin
hope to be the first WHL goaltenders since Trevor Kidd to
represent Team Canada as a starting goaltender.

 

Glass, a teammate of Dawes in Kootenay, appears to
have the inside track. Glass was drafted by the Ottawa Senators in 2004, and is
tied for first in save percentage (.936) and second in the WHL in goals against
(1.69).

 

Although Beauchemin’s statistics aren’t nearly as
impressive as those of Glass, he is certainly capable of being the starter for
Team Canada. Playing on a mediocre Prince Albert Raiders squad, the Flyers
prospect has a 2.83 goals against average and a .899 save percentage.

 

Missing the cut

 

Among those cut from Team Canada include Brandon
Wheat Kings duo Eric Fehr and Ryan Stone. The combination of
Stone and Fehr has combined for 46 goals (30 of which credited to Fehr) and 91
points. Such totals place Stone and Fehr second and third respectively in the
WHL.

 

Moose Jaw Warrior and Calgary Flames prospect Dustin
Boyd
was returned to his club after failing to make the team. It was Boyd
who was named ‘Player of the Game’ for Team WHL in game six of the ADT CHL
Canada/Russia Challenge in Lethbridge, Alberta. Boyd is among the top 20 in
scoring in the Western Hockey League with 33 points in 32 games this season.

 

Stefan Meyer (FLA), who
has registered 34 points in 31 games this season, was among the cuts made.
Meyer named ‘Player of the Game’ in Game 5 of the ADT CHL Canada/Russia Challenge
in Red Deer, Alberta, is the teammate of both Cam Barker and Clarke MacArthur
in Medicine Hat.

 

Also returned to Medicine Hat was goaltender Kevin
Nastiuk
(CAR). Nastiuk, who is tied for the lead in the Western Hockey
League in shutouts with seven, has a 2.02 goals against average and .924 save
percentage with Medicine Hat this season.

 

Devan Dubnyk (EDM), the
fourth goaltender to represent the Western Hockey League in the Team Canada
Selection Camp, held from December 12-16, was returned to the Kamloops Blazers.
Dubnyk, drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, has
recorded a 2.65 goals against average and a .908 save percentage this season.

 

Also cut from the team is Saskatoon Blades defenseman
Mike Green (WAS). Green, who leads the Western Hockey League in
plus/minus with a +26 rating, has 26 points in 31 games for the Blades this
season.

 

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the
editorial staff.